Friday, March 27, 2015

Stones Below Paris

As we walked through the diverse city of Paris, we were able to see huge buildings and cute cafes. The smell of delicious pastries drew us in every morning to our neighborhood boulangerie to buy croissants. Walking narrow and wide streets through the different arrondissements, I could see the way Parisians go about their day. Making mistakes on the metro, walking into stores saying bonjour and merci is an amazing experience. One of the best ways to experience and absorb the culture is to interact with locals. A great way to connect with a new city is by understanding its history. Context Travel does this for the intellectually curious traveler. The process of Paris becoming a city that values history, by keeping and; restoring historical buildings and objects, is lovely. By understanding the birth of the city of Paris, individuals can connect with its history. Here, I’ll share two Context Travel tours that greatly influenced the way I see the city – and the world.

"La crypte archéologique du Parvis de Notre-Dame (Paris) by dalbera from Paris, France
Wikimedia Commons

The Birth of the City of Light walk with Context Travel gave us an overview of the Roman city of Lutetia, located in the grounds of what is now Paris in the Ile de Cite and mainly in the left bank. This walk had many interesting facts about the Roman city. However, visiting the Crypte Archeologique was breathtaking. Our docent shared the history of the city of Lutetia. It was discovered when Parisians were digging to create more space, and fortunately found the remains of the ancient Roman city. The remains of the ancient city showed how stones were set up to create the city. It was interesting to learn the way Lutetia kept expanding in a circle, like rings of a tree trunk, with the Ile de la Cite in the center. Many Roman structures are still used in Paris, including; the Roman city planning main north-south-oriented main street called  cardo maximus. The process of seeing these ancient sites and then comparing it to the innovation of the buildings above throughout time made me think about what the world values. Paris appreciates the beauty of original buildings and makes them accessible to the public by having major museums free of charge for children and students. More places should follow this structure of having accessible sites for young people, it gives individuals a chance to explore and learn outside of school.   
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Louvre medieval fortress photo by Rebeca Vargas

The Louvre Crash Course walking seminar started by entering the newly discovered medieval fortress under the famous museum. This part of the walk held my attention because it was underneath the Louvre for a long time until it was discovered in the 1980s, when the glass pyramid was added to the beautiful museum. After learning about the medieval fortress, the history of the rest of the Louvre fell into place.
"Fortress remains, Louvre, Paris June 2014" by daryl_mitchell from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
 Fortress Remains-Wikimedia Commons

The amusing part of the discovery of the fortress is that it was not planned. The discovery of most remains of historical buildings in Paris are opened for the public to explore and learn about the past. I wonder if I start digging in my backyard, what will I find? I have grown an interest in the findings of historical buildings and objects. I have created a new challenge or added to my bucket list, to go back to the Louvre and learn about the artifacts there that we did not see today. Realistically, it will take me more than three days because the Louvre is huge, but I am up for the challenge and will return to the City of Light later in my lifetime. How long do you think it takes to go through the whole Louvre? 


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